EU calls for controls on surveillance tech exports

Privacy watchdog demand limits on exporting surveillance tech

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has called on the EU to strengthen safeguards on the export of surveillance and interception technologies to third world countries.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has called on the EU to strengthen safeguards on the export of surveillance and interception technologies to third world countries.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has called on the EU to strengthen safeguards on the export of surveillance and interception technologies to third world countries.

Giovanni Buttarelli, said in a report published by the EU, that there was "tension between the positive use of ICT tools and the negative impact that the misuse of technology can have on human rights, and especially the protection of personal data and privacy".

He added this needed to be tackled “by all actors involved in the ICT sector (developers, service providers, sellers, brokers, distributors, and users)".

He said the threat should be address by assessing existing EU standards for such tools “with the purpose to increase the protection of human rights, especially in case of exportation of surveillance or interception technology and related services”.

“The use and dissemination (including inside the EU) of surveillance and interception tools, and related services, should be subject to appropriate regulation, taking into account the potential risk for the violation of fundamental rights, in particular the rights of privacy and data protection,” he added.

He said that under EU's ‘dual-use' regulation, the export of harmful technologies to third countries can be controlled, but that the regulation does not take into account exports to a country where all appropriate safeguards regarding the use of this technology are not provided.

"Therefore, the current revision of the ‘dual-use' regulation should be seen as an opportunity to limit the export of potentially harmful devices, services and information to third countries presenting a risk for human rights," he said.

"In the context of dual-use, standards should be developed in order to assess how the ICT or the information at stake might be used and the potential impact on fundamental rights in the EU," he added.

Buttarelli said that an analysis of the situation in the third country regarding the actual protection of human rights or the respect of people's freedoms should be performed in order to evaluate whether an export authorisation should be delivered and under which conditions.

“In addition, an assessment of the context within which technologies are used is essential to evaluate their impact on human rights," he said.

In September, the European Parliament voted for a non-binding resolution calling for controls to make sure technology isn't involved in human rights abuse, particularly when it's exported outside of Europe for surveillance or censorship reasons, according to a report by Euractiv.

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